Nigeria (MNN) — Violence has gripped Nigeria.
Boko Haram wants to impose Sharia law throughout Nigeria, and the group could become the bane of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Carl Moeller with Open Doors says, “The Boko Haram, which is really an offshoot of al Qaeda, has really taken on that election as a touchpoint for inciting more violence against Christians and making it more of a political struggle as well. This is possibly a leading indicator of increased violence in that country.”
Since President Jonathan’s May 29 inauguration, the group has carried out a series of attacks throughout the North. Most recently, they bombed two police stations in the Borno State capital. These attacks came just 24 hours after Boko Haram gunmen assassinated a cleric from a rival sect.
Moeller notes that it seems to be more than just inciting fear. There could be a more insidious big picture plan. “He faces this opposition which is very organized and very dedicated, so I think there is a strong possibility of destabilizing the country in the long run.”
Houses of worship have apparently borne the brunt of the campaign, and Moeller fears that’s likely to continue. “This is a case where an organized group is likely to keep inciting violence regardless, and that’s really quite dangerous as we look toward the future.”
Other than the destabilization of the government, Moeller goes on to say what the extremists really want: “The conversion, forced or otherwise, of the southern part of Nigeria to Islam is one of the objectives of Boko Haram, disassociating Nigeria from its Westward leaning. They would really see their approach as part of a global al Qaeda-inspired progress of Islamist extremism.”
Nigeria is divided by rivalry between the predominantly-Muslim north and the mainly-Christian south. This rivalry has tribal and linguistic differences. Border community Christians have been and are likely to be the most vulnerable to attacks. With the cycle of retaliation in play, humanitarian groups are concerned that an outside group like Boko Haram can capitalize on the chaos and generate a civil war.
Moeller says it’s important for believers to break that cycle. “We’re praying that the Christian community there will be a model of forgiveness and reconciliation. We’re also praying that they will not be so passionate in their response that they become violent against Muslims and perpetuate more violence and perhaps even legitimize some of the violence of the Muslims.”
The hope of the Gospel is the only thing that transcends revenge. “The true Christians really want to be a force for good and even to see the salvation of those who are persecuting them so we can pray with them in that. We can pray that they would continue to support law and order in that country and ultimately be part of a healing process in a nation that is really torn down the middle.”